Are open houses still relevant in real estate?

By Kelly Leighton | June 11, 2019 | 5 min. read

Do you still host open houses? Do you find they help your business?

Across Pennsylvania, some Realtors® still find open houses beneficial to their business, while others cite changing technology as a cause for a decrease in the popularity of open houses.

“In the Pittsburgh market, due to low inventory, the best approach if the home is priced right and in good condition is to list on the MLS on Wednesday or Thursday and have no showings until the open house on Sunday. What this does is create tons of interest,” said District 10 Vice President Preston Moore. “Then on Sunday, you will have 10-plus couples at the open house and multiple offers. By Monday, the home is sold and the seller has only been inconvenienced five days and everybody is happy.”

While technology has allowed people to see properties from the comfort of their own homes in minutes, Moore doesn’t think it replaces open houses. “It has made the buying process easier for the buyers. Now, they have a good idea what is being offered before they show up, meaning very few surprises and less wasting time on homes that don’t fit their lifestyle,” he said.

“Buyers primarily find homes on their own now,” said District 8 Vice President Adam Conrad. “Gone are the days where a real estate agent loads buyers into their car and drives them around to view the choices the agent has made. Actually, the opposite is true now. The buyer sees the properties online, chooses which homes to view and provides a list to the agent. With this in mind, you can imagine why it’s important to have open houses. The buyers are seeking out homes and getting ideas of which types of homes they might like and the area they would like to live.”

Conrad added, “You only need one buyer. But it’s nice to have more than one buyer bidding on your home. Open houses create ‘buzz’ and activity on a home as more people visit the property in person. If you do have the open house, you can quickly get feedback from buyers who can be surveyed on the home when they stop by.”

District 3 Vice President Eric Rehling said he resorts to open houses if the property isn’t selling. “Our strategy has been to hold an open house if our initial pricing didn’t generate the right interest or offer. We use the open house as a tool for a refreshed marketing push at a different price point. The market now moves so briskly, the need for a new price point and refreshed marketing push hasn’t been there in abundance,” he said. “With the market and the technology available today with Google Earth, the ability to post virtually unlimited pictures, video, etc., it is hard to justify the need for an open house. We will do it on occasion, but on the whole we find many sellers adverse to the idea of an open house.”

“The market is much more efficient and transparent. Buyers can get a great feel for the home from their phone or computer. I 100% agree there is no substitute for walking through a home. It’s just the tools today allow a buyer to gain enough information to cross homes off their list that they wouldn’t have been able to eliminate years ago. There is just as much ‘shopping’ going on. The difference is more pre-shopping online, so the actual walking through homes is limited to those that more closely match the buyer’s desires. The days of the open house being the main conduit to help buyers notice a property is on the market have passed us by,” he added. “With anything, I think it goes in cycles. While technology has definitely reduced the impact and need for an open house, I think the drop off for us is more about the market. When the market slows, I feel our open houses will tick up again. When listing a home it is all about how using the right marketing tools for the situation. Some marketing tools are good in brisk markets and some are good in slower markets.”

District 1 Vice President Heather Petrone-Shook likes to host open houses, even if it means just neighbors stopping by for food.

“I feel that as a listing agent, I get to possibly give the buyers a different perspective on the house than their agent might not be able to. A few times, while hosting my open house listing, I overheard a buyers’ agent tell their client incorrect information about the house and or the area. I offered the correction to their agent to make sure they had the correct information to give to their client,” said Petrone-Shook. “Sure, you can view a house or take a walking tour of the inside or street but let’s face it, sometimes the photos make less desirable houses look fantastic and fantastic houses look less desirable. Buyers still like to get their own eyes, and sometimes the eyes of every family member and friend within 50 miles, on the actual property.”

If you stop by one of Petrone-Shook’s open houses, you’re in for a sweet treat at least. “I like to bake cookies. Not only does it make the house smell delicious, but there’s also a snack for the buyers to nibble on while they think over one of the largest purchases of their lives.”

To save time, she admits she may use the Tollhouse cookie dough from the store. “Don’t forget to set a reminder timer. Nothing distracts buyers like burnt cookie smell.”

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